John Heilman and John Duran Say Final Goodbyes as West Hollywood City Council Members

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John Heilman and John Duran - Photos by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES

John Duran and John Heilman said their goodbyes at a regular West Hollywood council meeting, dated Monday, December 7, 2020. They participated as city council members for the very last time after serving the West Hollywood community for decades.

West Hollywood mayor Lindsey Horvath presented them with city proclamations in recognition of their service. Both public servants had the opportunity to say some closing words. Their final comments made way to the official swearing-in of new council members Sepi Shyne and John Erickson during the early part of a 6-hour council meeting.

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John Duran forwarded his speech for publication. It reads as follows:

“I would first like to thank the People of the City of West Hollywood for entrusting me in for the past 20 years. I was elected to the West Hollywood City Council 5 separate times in 2001, 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2017. It has really been one of the great chapters in my life to serve this community for the past 2 decades.

I have to thank the person that I worked with daily for 13 years – my beloved and brilliant deputy Hernan Molina. When I hired Hernan back in 2001, he was an AIDS policy maker at APLA. He has proven to be one of the smartest and most dedicated city employees for these past 20 years. But more importantly, he has become a member of my family and I will forever cherish our friendship.

I need to say thank you to Mike Jenkins. There is no better City Attorney in the State of California. I have to thank him for being tolerant of any and every hairbrained idea I have ever proposed and his willingness to ask me the hard questions. Some of the novel ideas were best placed on the back burner. Others in the waste receptacle. And others have become important parts of West Hollywood’s municipal codes and customs over the years. To the newbie councilmembers – listen carefully to Mike Jenkins and Lauren Langer – they are both so well grounded in fact, reality and the law – and will not steer you wrong.

And then I need to say thank you to my every day 8 a.m. call – our city manager Paul Arevalo. I believe Paul is the longest serving city manager in the State of California. He has guided us through both good and bad times. And he is largely responsible for the great success story that is West Hollywood today. I will miss our daily check ins, exasperations and chuckles every morning Paul. I may have to still call you periodically just to say ‘whaddya hear?’ I have been talking to you every morning for 20 years. Some habits will be hard to break.

I want to wish Sepi Shyne and Jon Erickson well in their upcoming term. Enjoy the honeymoon while it lasts. Usually about 6 months. Or less. And then the People of West Hollywood will challenge and confront you every step along the way. This is how democracy works. You have a well educated constituency that cares deeply about this city. And these 36,000 people have well over 50,000 opinions. Listen to them carefully. And then do what you think is right — even if it is not popular. In a community that is often passionate, divided and polarized – if you try to evaluate issues based upon the heat and energy in the room – you end up satisfying no one and losing people on both sides of any issue. Stick to your values. Bring people along. Patience is truly a virtue. You will have many years to put patience into practice as I did.

I want to wish my colleagues John D’Amico, Lauren Meister and Lindsey Horvath well in the upcoming years. Governing during times of prosperity is a great pleasure to utilize the abundant resources that we have merited – to create and expand programs that best serve our many communities. However, governing during setbacks, difficulties and austerity — is the most challenging period of time you will face. Difficult decisions lay ahead as the pandemic rages on and the city’s economy continues to collapse. I say to all 5 of you that are moving forward as a governing council tonight -I am a phone call away if I can ever be helpful. Many hands will be needed for the heavy lifts ahead in the coming years. The road will be harsh and steep. And you 5 will be the lightning rods for the displeasure of many facets of the community. You need not carry the burden alone.

And finally, I want to give a special tribute to the other old man on the council – my colleague for eternity-John Heilman. I first met you when I was living in Laguna Beach and you were starting a city in 1985. You beamed with enthusiasm and excitement that moved me to leave Laguna and join all of you as a resident of West Hollywood a few years later in 1990 – thirty years ago. I have not regretted that decision ever. Thank you for tasking me to build a city with you. To take what we had in our midst – and to dream and build a community from the ground up. The first 10 years were the birthing years. The next 10 years were the growing pains. And the last 20 years with you have been building an infrastructure, an economic base, a network of social services and a community that is the envy of so many Southern California cities. In 1984, the city’s total tax revenues were $15 million. We have expanded that ten fold and built one of the wealthiest, sturdiest and recognizable paradises in Southern California. It has been a pleasure to do this work with you- even with the scars and hits we have both taken for doing the right things at the right time – even when not universally popular – but ultimately the necessary building blocks to the West Hollywood success story, I leave behind my fingerprints and DNA-numerous housing projects, the first robotic garage on the West Coast, the Coast Playhouse, a renovated West Hollywood Park, a newly created Laurel Park, redesigned and reinvigorated Sunset Strip, Santa Monica Blvd and Melrose Avenue (all without ugly telephone poles and lines), the West Hollywood Recovery Center, the acquired Log Cabin facility, Crystal Meth Town Hall meetings, Boom!, Sizzlel, a night time Pick up line free shuttle, a Russian veterans memorial, the permanent placement of rainbow and transgender flags on Santa Monica Blvd that fly daily, rainbow crosswalks at San Vicente permanently marking a gathering space, an upcoming AIDS monument, a getting to zero on AIDS city initiative, dog parks and anti cruelty legislation for animals, marriage licenses for LGBT couples.
All of this handiwork is now merged into WeHo community culture in such a way that no one will. I did dit, created it or made it happen. Success has many claimed parents and failure is an orphan.

As I leave now after 20 years of labor, my enemies and detractors can only see the last few years of infamy. My friends and colleagues see years of toil and effort to make lives better than they were before here in our beloved City. And within a few weeks, nobody will remember these words i now speak. Well…… except for this next part……

West Hollywood is 36 years young. But the place known as West Hollywood spans a century now. Long before legal incorporation there was a place called West Hollywood. I have been venturing up into this city since 1975 – for 45 years. So that means I have been part of this city since I had long hair and puka shells in the 1970’s. Heed this. This 1.9 square miles of heaven is not bound by time, customs or tradition. And every attempt to corral, regulate or restrain its energy suffers defeat. We have never been part of the powers that exist in downtown Los Angeles – neither LA City or LA County. We should never ever want to be ‘just like everyone else.’ For these infamous and familiar streets that we call our home have hosted renegades, outlaws, outliers, rebels, non conformists, gender benders, artists, radicals, deviants, homosexuals, cross dressers, hustlers, harlots, escorts, street trade, fanatics, junkies, reefer madness, debauchery, degenerates, weirdos, freaks, leftists, socialists, pornographers, rock stars, nearly celebrities, outcasts, bohemians, beatniks, flower children, free spirits, enchanters, illusionists, prophets, conjurers, brooders and percolators. They do not wish to follow the rules. They do not wish to be regulated. They do not with to be directed. They do not wish to be restrained. Not by downtown. And not by city hall. Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks diverged and started a dream studio here that gave Samuel Goldwyn his initial into the permanency of MGM.
Allah Nazimova – radical lesbian bohemian – started her gardens on the Strip to host the bawdy Hollywood underground in the roaring 20’s. Mickey Cohen and Busy Siegal set up their speak easies, gambling joints and cross dressing shows at La Boheme with the ‘Pansy Craze’ starring Karyl Norman in drag in the 1930’s. Lou Adler and Richard O’Brien launched the midnight showing that started with “it’s just a jump to the left” with sweet transvestites calling out ‘Don’t Dream It. Be it.’ Buffalo Springfield sang at Gazzari’s that there was ‘Something Happening Here.’ The Players Club. Ciro’s. The Trocadero. The Roxbury. Where Frank and Dino crooned with the Big Bands with Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper taking note of who was there. Where sweet Norma Jean became Marilyn and insisted that her friend Ella Fitzgerald perform in what were once all white clubs and Marlena Dietrich walked into opening night with Pearl Bailey on one arm and Lena Horne on the other. Where Lilly St. Cyr became the first stripper on the Sunset Strip before the Go Go girls turned up the volume at the Whiskey doing the Twist and the Watusi. Where Hugh Hefner opened his Playboy Bunny Club, Divine sang at Studio One and Sylvester made us feel Mighty Real.
Where Jim Morrison, Jimmy Dean and Sal Mineo pushed the limits on male hyper sexuality, while Led Zeppelin threw television sets out the windows of the Hyatt. Where Slash found his top hat, while Tommy lee found Pamela Anderson. Where Van Halen created its riffs and Elton lamented for Tiny Dancer at the Troubadour. Curious. Demented. Queer. Eccentric. Irrational. Sensual. Bizarre. Unhinged. Peculiar. Aberrations.

Be wary of the voices who would attempt to modulate, attune, tailor, direct, guide, temper or integrate this energy. You will fail before you begin. Govern less and allow the counter culture to go haywire and amiss. That is the unnatural gravitational pull for this place.
So like the overseer Jack Torrance at the Overlook Hotel who finds himself in the photograph at the end of the movie — just one of many others who came here for refuge. Found community. And now a caricature of myself with some fact and mostly fiction – I say good bye. Keep the lights low and the music high. There can be no revolution without the dance……. Thank you.”

John Heilman who has been serving the city since its inception in 1984, said the following for his closing remarks:

“I want to first congratulate the new council members Sepi and John and wish them well. I hope you find your service half as rewarding as I have. I sure you’re going to enjoy it and I look forward to seeing the improvements that you’re going to make for our community. Secondly, I want to thank all of the council members, Mayor Horvath, all the current council members and past council members for all of their kindness to me over the many years that I served.

A special shoutout to John Duran. Thank you John for all of your advocacy in the LGBTQ community, for people living with HIV and AIDS, for people in recovery and thank you for everything you’ve done on behalf of our great city.

I want to make sure I thank all of the people who serve on our city board and commissions and tasks forces. The council gets a lot of credit for improvements, but many of those initiatives win their way through our boards and commissions and they do a lot of the heavy lifting, often times without a lot of fanfare and a lot of praise and approval and without much compensation either, so I want to thank all of the people who serve, not just for me, but all of the people who serve West Hollywood and continue to serve West Hollywood on our boards and commissions.

I want to thank our sheriffs, our public safety, professionals, our firefighters, the sheriffs who make us safe in the community. I want to thank them for all of their service to West Hollywood. I want to especially thank our city staff. I’d love to name all of you by name, but we’d never get out of here tonight. It is such an amazing group of people. We are so lucky and I can say this, not only as a council member, but as as a resident. We are so lucky to have so many people who are so dedicated to serving our community, who make our community look good and who work tirelessly every day to make West Hollywood a better place. It has been an incredible honor to serve with all of you and to work you, so I want to thank you so much for everything you’d done for me and everything you continue to do for the community. If course I want to give a special shoutout to our incredible city clerk Yvonne and her staff, our assistant city managers, the ever responsive Oscar, and the ever quiet David Wilson, for maintaining our financial stability, our city attorney Mike Jenkins and Lauren Langer, we are so lucky to have both of you and to have your service. You are both recognized experts in the field and you have served us so well.

And of course our long suffering city manager. Long serving and long suffering. I remember before you had grey hair and I know that we certainly have given you a lot of it over the years. Thank you for keeping our city going and keeping things moving here. You’ve been an incredible resource for our city. I know I’m forgetting a lot of our key city staff people, all of our people who run our social services programs, our transportation, our public facilities, our parks and rec, it is an amazing group and I will continue to admire you and support you in any way I can. And finally, I want to thank the people of West Hollywood for giving me this incredible honor, to serve the community for such a very long time. It has been such an incredible journey and we have collectively made West Hollywood a better place than what it was 36 years ago. And I know that it’s only going to keep getting better. I want to end by letting everyone know, council, commissioners, staff and members of the community. I am not going anywhere. I am still a resident. I am always available to help and serve this community and to help all of the residents in need. I love this city so much. It has been an honor to be a part of it and I will continue to serve it, but just in a different capacity. Thank you all so much for your kindness, your support and giving me the opportunity to do this for so long. And with that I will say thank you and good night.”

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Larry Block
Larry Block
7 months ago

Thank you for your incredible dedication and service to the people of West Hollywood.